Beta release of our Revising and Editing Content course

We’ve just published, as a beta release, our latest e-learning course: Revising and Editing Content.

It covers the following topics:

  • Editing
  • Revising content
  • Revising tools
  • Editing and revising exercises
  • Getting your content reviewed
  • The relationship between editors and writers

WriteLessons screenshotRevising and Editing Content is available as part of WriteLessons, which provides you with access to a range of e-learning courses in technical communication.

You have access to all of the courses, which you can take at your own pace.

Predictions for technical communication in 2017 and beyond

Our predictions for 2017 are…the same as they were for 2016! Having said that, there are a few adjustments we can make to the comments we made last year. Below, you’ll see our 2016 predictions In italics and some thoughts for 2017:

As documentation becomes to be seen more as part of product design, so the technical writing process will become part of the product development process. We’re likely to see reviews and version control follow the developers processes, and be managed via tools such as Git.

This trend now has a name: “documentation as code” (or “docs like code”). This is partly a reaction to more projects following the Agile methodology, with fast and frequent releases and a team-based approach to projects.

Markdown will break out from being an authoring format for developers and into the mainstream.

Markdown is now used for documenting some Cloud applications at IBM, so it’s gaining some well-known users now. We’re likely to see further developments with Cloud-based collaborative authoring tools (such as Corilla, Forestry and CraftCMS). We may also see more use of markup languages that have semantic capabilities as well, such as AsciiDoc.

More technical communicators will use Lean methods when working in an Agile environment.

It’s still early days for Lean in technical communication, but at last week’s “Agile the Docs” conference, we did see an example of how Lean had been used by Worldpay to identify where there were bottlenecks and waste in their writing process.

We’ll see greater use of the imperative voice in topic titles

This continues to be a trend.

The popular Help authoring tools will be able to generate embedded Help and on-boarding screens.

This was more a wish, and it didn’t happen. We also hoped for Markdown support, but that also didn’t come to pass. The popular authoring tools have added more support for Git and similar tools, and working collaboratively in the Cloud. They have improved.

What trends do you predict for 2017?

IKEA “How to Build” videos: a review

Although IKEA has been publishing instructional videos on how to build their products since 2012, we’ve only just come across them. The videos feature real people assembling the furniture, plus some tips on how to carry out certain tasks.

IKEA USA

IKEA USA has eight “How to build videos”, which you can access from the IKEA USA website or IKEA’s YouTube channel:

The videos are mostly visual, and there isn’t any narration. They are between 3 minutes and 12 minutes in duration. As with many videos, it doesn’t really get started until after the first 15 seconds.

Overall, they are very good:

  • The plain background helps you focus on the furniture.
  • The close-up instructional speech bubbles are informative.
  • The animated arrows do a very good job at  highlighting the location of holes.
  • There are zoom-in shots of specific actions.

While the paper instructions tend to stick to a single viewpoint, the video shows the assembly from different angles.

The last video was made in 2015. Why did IKEA stop making them? We don’t know if they have covered all the of the products that would benefit from video instructions, or they ran out of time/money/enthusiasm.

IKEA Italia

IKEA Italia has a similar YouTube channel. This contains translated versions of the IKEA USA assembly instruction videos, plus some assembly instructions from 2016 that have a British narrator.

These videos are much more driven by narrated instructions, and are shorter in length. I suspect this style was cheaper to produce. These videos also work well, as long as you speak English.

Fan videos

There are unofficial IKEA instructional videos on YouTube as well, some of which take a less conventional approach:

How common knowledge disappears – customer questions & answers for a turntable

In the olden days, every family had a record player (also known as a “turntable”), and pretty much everyone knew how to use it. However, if you look at the Customer Questions & Answers section for a turntable currently on sale on Amazon, it’s clear that many people today don’t know how a turntable works, or what it does. Common knowledge sometimes isn’t as common as people think.

Reviewing and Editing Technical Documents Course – Update

We’ve started work on the next course to be added to the WriteLessons bundle of online training courses – “Reviewing and Editing Technical Documents”. In this situation, we may try an experiment and release each module as it is completed, rather than publish all the modules in one go.

The modules will be: revising, editing, copy editing, proof-reading, getting documents edited, possibly measuring the effectiveness of documents, and managing updates. More news when we have it.

 

 

Have Amazon, Dropbox, Microsoft and Google got their information design wrong?

On an API documentation course we ran for a client yesterday, we showed a number of developer documentation websites, including ones from Amazon, DropboxGoogle and Microsoft. One common theme the delegates noticed was these sites contained a in-page table of contents, or a set of related links, on the right hand set of the screen.

Dropbox API documentation page

You will often hear Information Designers talk about F shaped reading, and that the right edge of the screen is ignored by users. If you put content there, they say, it probably won’t be seen by the readers.

So have Amazon, Dropbox, Google and Microsoft all got it wrong, by using the right edge of the screen to provide navigation? Have the improvements in screen technology and the introduction of tablets and smartphones changed which areas of the screen users notice?

What do you think?